I’d argue there are two camps of people in the world: those who fish, and those who don’t fish. For those who don’t fish, I imagine looks odd: someone standing by the river or ocean side in all manners of weather, quietly casting out a line, waiting, reeling, recasting, more waiting, more reeling, more waiting, and often resulting in little to show for such persistence. How can that possibly be a good use of one’s time?
But for those of us who do fish, it is much more than sitting and waiting for luck to strike. It hones our senses of peace and calm. It gives an opportunity to escape from the demands of life and just be. And it sometimes rewards us with the perfect catch, the fruit of endless patience and persistence.
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, a 2012 film starring Ewan McGregor, Emily Blunt, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Amr Waked, displays this dichotomy between these two groups in a poignant way that lends itself to much deeper introspection than initially expected.
When tasked to explore and implement the feasibility of introducing British cold water salmon into a man-made river shed and dam in the Yemen, Dr. Alfred “Fred” Jones (Ewan McGregor) immediately balks. Without the proper environment, the fish would never survive, let alone “run” upstream and thrive. But with the determination of Harriet (Emily Blunt) and vision of Sheikh Muhammed (Amr Waked) persuading him, Fred is unable to escape the contagious optimism of his new colleagues. They press onward, surging past doubt, bureaucratic red tape, and personal conflict, eagerly celebrating each milestone achieved.
It’s a journey fraught with ups and downs, and at times there is a lot to follow. But what struck me the most was the damage caused by such ambition. The Sheikh does not have the support of the people directly impacted by his vision. Granted he has the money and the power and the determination, but not the acceptance that is vital to success.
This isn’t anything new. Many times in leadership, someone will cast a vision. It can be an amazing vision that will benefit many. It can encourage growth and unity and prosperity, but if it’s done strictly from the top: if the leaders are the ones not only casting the vision but implementing it, funding it, advertising it – then it can be incredibly destructive. And the Sheikh experiences this first hand. After a major setback he explains that it was his own fault – he was too forceful in his own vision.
And isn’t this the truth in the local church? If we get so excited about a vision that we neglect to take into consideration the needs and feelings of the people around us, don’t we hurt more than we help? Vision is imperative to growth, yes. Change is inevitable if we want to move beyond a hurtful past or make an impact in our present. But it has to have buy-in. The people who are living and walking the paths we want to improve upon need to embrace that vision even more so than those of us casting out. We have to approach with caution, patience and gentleness.
While Fred and Harriet are angry and dejected, the Sheikh identifies and accepts his errors. It’s a lesson that resonates with Fred, who commits to a second attempt, but from a new angle. Instead of large-scale, singular effort, their next attempt will be much smaller, with local involvement and ownership. For those in church leadership, we need to be mindful that we promote vision with a posture of humility and collaboration. We can’t focus solely on what the vision entails, but we must blend purpose with passion and local involvement. It’s the only way to make sure people bite.